Monday, January 06, 2020

Mick, Dinosaur News Manager

This is me. There will be typos. I'm not going to edit. I don't have the time.


This morning I got on the scale and it told me my weight was "E." You step on it and first it say 0.00 and then it does this cycling thing like it's thinking about your weight and then it should give you a number, but my scale says I weigh "E."

My weight is Extraordinary. Exciting.

I weigh Empty.

Other people weigh numbers. I weigh E.

I don't know what E means. It could mean anything or Everything. I weigh Excellent. I weigh Everyone. I weigh Elephant.

Ask Sesame Street. The fuck do I know.


I should be writing. I mean, I am writing, but I should be writing something else. I should be writing about Harley Quinn or samurai or Jean-Luc Picard

(okay, I should mention I am going back and correcting things as I write them, just for full disclosure)

but I'm not because I can't stand to.

Here is a complete list of things I am capable of doing right now:

1. Sleeping.


My mom's been dead for over a year and at this point I'm supposed to be fine according to the rules but I'm not. I have not been okay and I am not okay and it is still impossible to imagine I will ever be okay again.

I am supposed to be able to do my work. I was, in May 2018, supposed to be able to get up out of bed and go to work and sort through patient files and sign up people for Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it, so since I was already freelance writing part time on the side, I stopped going to work and started freelance writing full time.

Everyone thinks this was brave. Everyone thinks I made a bold move to realize my dreams. I did not.

There is a show called The Office about a stupid, privileged, self-absorbed moron named Michael who runs an office and there is a character on that show, played by Leslie David Baker, named Stanley Hudson. To most people the hero of the office is Jim, the torch-bearing salesman. Or Pam, the secretary scared of her true feelings. Or worse, the idiot boss himself, or his ignorant survivalist douchebag assistant Dwight. Most people will not tell you this, but Stanley is the true hero of The Office because he is the only sane member of the staff. Stanley doesn't take center stage often. He does his crosswords and weathers his stupid, racist supervisor's idiocy with eye rolls and grunts. Because that's the only sane way to both stay in this ridiculous work environment -- to not care, to do the bare minimum, and distract yourself until retirement.

In season 3's "Grief Counseling," Michael's old boss dies and because in his limited mind everything in the universe orbits his dumb face, Michael makes it all about himself. He insists on running a faux grief counseling session even though few people in the office even knew his old boss. He uses a toy and tells his staff anyone holding the toy must speak about a death in their lives that cut deep. He tosses the toy to Stanley, who refuses and tosses the toy back. Michael insists Stanley share and throws the toy back to him. Stanley, now upset enough that his usual facade of apathy crumbles, throws the toy back at his boss as hard as he can and says


This is Stanley's most naked moment in the series. It's brief and it comes without fanfare, but in this exchange you see Stanley has true grief but this baboon throwing a toy at him is not worthy of its sharing. Michael and his coworkers are not his family, are not close, are not even truly friends, and Stanley makes his boundaries clear.


That's all I did. Except no one was asking me to share my grief at work. My coworkers were good people and so was my boss. But I could not be there anymore because I couldn't help but share my grief because it was all I had left. I spent hours sobbing in my cubicle, trying my best to do it quietly and praying no one heard me even though I knew they had to. I did that for months. And I could see the confusion in my coworkers' faces, that my mother had died in October and it had been Halloween and thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and then January and Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and I still was a wreck? There was no help. It's not their fault, I don't blame them. It was as if death was as far from them as Mars.

The Monday that I didn't go to work didn't come with courage or boldness. It just came with a refusal. I will not be there today. I will not sob there today or any other day. I will not be enveloped in utter despair and need to act as if it's just another day. I will not. I can't.

I wasn't brave. I wasn't bold. I had the courage of a trapped animal gnawing off its own paw.


So now I'm writing full time and all I've ever wanted to do is write for a living and holy shit, look what I'm writing about! Comic book movies and Star Wars and samurai. It's a geek writer's dream come true.

But I don't want to do anything. Here is a complete list of things I want to do:

1. Sleep.

2. Stop. Fucking. Crying. for one. fucking. day.


God this is all bullshit and so am I.


There is a comic book character named Doctor Manhattan. He does not experience time as humans do. He is simultaneously in the past, present, and future. When he narrates a story, he is constantly going either back or forward saying things like, "It is 1968 and I am killing Viet Cong" or "It is 1985 and I am killing someone in the snow." The main character of Kurt Vonneut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim, experiences similar non-linear time jumps.

I feel like I finally understand Doctor Manhattan and Billy Pilgrim, to a certain extent. Often -- sometimes it seems like every few moments -- I am somewhere and somewhen else.

It's July 2018 and I am in my dining room feeling the cold of the air conditioning.

And then it's July 2016 and I am in the hospital with a foot long zipper across my torso, a day after the doctors pulled out my kidney and removed the tumors.

I don't think I'm there. I don't hallucinate. I am not divorced from reality. But in every other way, I am there. I am back in the hospital room and the orderly is cleaning me or my then girlfriend is taking pictures of my scars for her friend. Or it's August 2018 and I've spent 5 hours on my recliner watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because I'm weak and my side still hurts and even though it's the middle of the night my then girlfriend, Amanda, keeps running outside every hour because I live kitty corner from a church which is a "PokeStop" and every time she leaves I worry about what I could possibly do if someone attacks her because it's the middle of the night (and I don't live in a warzone but it isn't fucking Leave it to Beaver out there either) and I can't because I can barely move and everything hurts and it's all I can do to wash the dishes (Amanda will only wash dishes she uses and not all of them) and feed the cats (which Amanda refuses to do before 10 pm) and change the cat litter (which Amanda refuses to do).

I'm not there, I don't think I'm there, but in every other conceivable way, I'm there.


Not long ago, my girlfriend Jolene's cat died. I wish I got to know him better. He was already 18 by the time we were going out, and he lost his sight not long after we started dating. In fact, the few times he let me pet him I was pretty sure because he couldn't see me and so didn't know where to hide.

He died on her kitchen floor and I drove over to help. She was heartbroken and of course she was, and I hated myself because I wanted to be there for her, because this is the time you have to be there for people. It was already late so we were going to wrap him in a towel and Jolene would bring him to the vets in the morning.

I picked him up and put him on a towel. Jolene came over and started petting him, saying sweet things to her sweet boy.

And then it was October 2018 and I was standing over my mother's body. Her hospice nurse was cleaning her with a wash cloth, saying sweet, wonderful things to her. And my mother was not my mother. It was her body and there was nothing of her in it. Deflated. Lost. She was not there she was not in her body she was not anywhere that I could see. And as much as I thought this hospice nurse was sweet and kind, and as much as I was grateful that my mother had her and other nurses to help care for her, I couldn't help but think who the fuck this stupid fucking little nurse thought she was talking to because she was talking to meat. She was talking to a silent stranger. My mother was not there on that bed with her mouth hanging open. My mother was gone. That was not my mother. Who are you talking to?


The face won't leave me. The face of this thing that wasn't my mother anymore. This face tells me there is nothing. There is no light. No hope. There is no paradise beyond the veil. There is no fucking veil. There are these years and then nothing. Oblivion. Buried under an avalanche of nothing. Vapor. We are blasted into a million pieces and we are gone. We are flies heading for a wall.


I cannot handle this. And I cannot handle life.

Here is a complete list of what I want to feel:

1. At the end of Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow, the main character is on a plane that has to land on or near a frozen lake. He has a lion cub with him and he holds the cub in his arms and he dances and jumps, laughing, across the ice. It's a man joyously defiant in the face of the bleak, cold inevitable.

Two or three times in the past week I have tried to describe this scene to different people, and each time I sobbed before I finished a single sentence of my description. I want that. I want that to live in my heart and my soul and my mind, but all I see is death and utter meaninglessness.


My mother is gone. One day I will be gone. What's worth doing? What's worth achieving? I don't want to die, but I don't know what's worth doing while I'm here. Who cares what a fly's wings do on its way do on the way to the wall? Would it be any better if I believed in a magical hereafter?


Last night my friend Jen asked me what I believed about the afterlife when I was a child. The main thing I remembered? I was sure that after I died, I'd be able to ask God anything and that excited me because it meant I could find out what happened to the dinosaurs.



GOD: Come on in, that's St. Peter -- he confirms your reservations. And this is Mick. He lets you know what happened to the dinosaurs.

MICK: Aliens -- no, I know, right? I was betting on an asteroid too. Fucking aliens, man.


When I sleep everything is warm. 

1 comment:

Zoei said...

There are no rules to grief, and you're doing it right. I don't know what to say, I don't think there *is* anything I can say, but I wish for you to be gentle with yourself, to give yourself permission, and to stop listening to the "shoulds". Except this one: you SHOULD feel exactly the way you're feeling. And yeah, big feelings suck ass sometimes, but they're yours. And that realization doesn't take bravery or any nemesis hitting you over the head with it. So feel it, because you have to. Cry every day a million times a day, because that's part of who you are right now, and part of who you've been for a while. And someday, eventually, go dancing through the snow (and draw boobies on the windshields), and pretend you're on ice with a lion cub, because that will be who you are that day.